Stokes Bay Railway

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The History of the Stokes Bay Railway

by Peter Keat

THE BACKGROUND

With the purchase, rebuilding and alteration of Osborne House for her own exclusive use. Queen Victoria adopted the Isle of Wight as one of her favourite holiday destinations -" a place of ones own, quiet and retired " - was the way the Queen described Osborne House. She had purchased the property along with just over 1000 acres of ground from Lady Isobelle Blackford but extensive modifications were necessary for it to suit her Majesty's own needs.

The first stone of the rebuilding was laid by the Queen on 23rd July 1845 and the whole house was completed and occupied by September 1846, in the meantime adjacent properties were bought to house the royal household and also to ensure more privacy. These extra purchases brought the total area of the estate up to some 2080 acres.

For many years the royal household transferred to the island twice a year, from 18th July until 23rd August and 18th December until 23rd February.Likewise, her subjects, in a desire to be in the fashion, followed the Queen over to the Island for their holidays. To cope with the anticipated influx of the travelling public the route from Gosport Pier to Ryde in 1855 had only one rival and that was from Clarence pier in Southsea this was a service run by the ' Port of Portsmouth and Ryde United Steam Packet Company '. It seems that the London and South Western Railway Company who ran the Gosport Line judged that the financial benefits of the construction of a line and the running of a service across to the Island were marginal so no official plan was put forward, likewise there was very little local interest in any such plan and so it was left to a specially formed company to fill, what was expected to be, a profitable gap in the system.

On 21st November 1854 the "Stokes Bay and the Isle of Wight Steam Boat and Telegraph Company " was registered for ' the construction and maintenance of a new railway, pier, and telegraph and other works ; the new railway to commence by a junction with the London and South Western Railway Company's line near Gosport in the county of Southampton and to terminate at or near to Stokes Bay in the same said county '.

stokes_bay_old(1863) Peter Keat

The basic plan was very simple, it was to construct approximately 1.5 miles of new railway to a newly constructed pier at Stokes Bay, a place once much favoured by King Henry 11 as an embarkation point for France. From the Bay the crossing to the Isle of Wight would be a mere 2.5 miles, the railway would run directly onto the pier and the passengers and their luggage would then be transferred directly onto the company's waiting ferry boat.

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